Recently I had an email from a mom of seven who was struggling in her first year of homeschooling. I hope that my response will be helpful to more people than just her, so I’ve decided to share it here: Advice from one homeschooling mom of many to another. I also received some responses from 3 friends of mine, so they will be posted on the other Thursdays in March. (#2 is here, #3 is here, #4 is here)
My answer (edited somewhat to preserve her anonymity):
No matter what the size of your family, starting to homeschool after kids have already gone to school is hard for anyone! I heard one speaker say it takes one month of adjustment for every year the kids have gone to school. So, hang in there. It’s learning a new way of life for you and for your kids. And having the little twins sure doesn’t make it easier!
I now know some other large families, but for many years I received my encouragement and help mostly from the internet. I’m part of an email loop called MOMYS, Mothers of Many Young Siblings. There are so many women on that loop that no matter what question you ask, you’ll find someone to give advice on it!
I also got help from books. Managers of Their Homes (and Chores) helped a bit. And even though I can never do it the way I plan it on paper, it still helps me get focused. I also liked the book Large Family Logistics and got a lot of great ideas from it.
I’m so sorry about you feeling like the joy has left your home. I think I would put aside the regular school work for a while and do some fun learning. Let the kids choose some topics they’d like to study and check out a bunch of books and videos at the library. They could do lapbooks on the topic if they think that’s fun. Go on some field trips. The Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op website has a great list of field trip ideas for every city! Read aloud a bunch. That’s one of my favorite parts of each day. Do some art, or music appreciation, or anything else that’s fun and different to help everyone get happy again. January is a rough month for most homeschoolers.
> How do you maintain the crazy life and not lose yourself or your mind?
I do feel like I’m losing my mind–at least once every day! But talking it out with my husband, getting some good systems going (kids assigned to chores, check-off lists, laundry schedule), and getting out of the house alone occasionally helps.
> How do you and your husband’s relationship not get lost and become a roommate relationship in the midst of life?
A few years ago we started talking together in bed every night. We make sure we go to bed at the same time, so we have that time to connect (and work out issues if there are some). I get less sleep now, but our relationship is so much stronger I would not trade it for the world!
> How does everything not just feel like work?
Well, a lot of it is work, so it is going to feel that way. Parenting and teaching and homemaking are hard work! So, you just need to look for the things that can delight you in the midst of it. Aren’t your twins funny? Take time to watch them and laugh! Sing. Dance. Get silly when you can.
> What do you do with younger kids while trying to school older kids?
I’m still not good at this one. I did hire a young lady to come and help in the mornings last year when I had a newborn and 2-year-old (and 6 older kids to homeschool). Most of the time now I just let them play in the basement and hope they entertain themselves. Other times, they have one of my older kids to play with them when they are in between schoolwork. I do my focused read-aloud time in the afternoon when my baby is sleeping. I wish my 3-year-old would still nap, since he doesn’t have the attention span to listen to me read for so long. This is still an area I’m not very good at!
> How can I be everything everyone needs all the time without getting burned out?
Here is another thing I’m struggling with as well. I just try to make sure my priorities are straight. I do need some alone time every day, so if I get it, that helps be reguvenate. But it’s still very hard and I often feel like there isn’t enough of me to go around.
> How do you not be tired?
I am ALWAYS tired. 🙁
> And how do you manage your home and kids all day and have anything left to give your husband at the end if the day?
My husband is such an encouragement to me at the end of the day (most days) that I do have something left. But not everyday. Remember, this is your first year of homeschooling. It’s a really hard year! Everyone, including you and your husband needs to understand that and lower their expectations.
> The biggest problem I feel is that there isn’t enough of me to go around.
Yes, I feel like this, too. I just make sure that I check everyone’s schoolwork every few days, since it’s impossible to do it every day.
> I want to teach my children Godly character and I want to love and respect my husband and I want to be good at homeschooling and I don’t want my house to be a wreck all the time and I want to provide healthy meals but honestly I feel like just the regular maintenance of everyday is so overwhelming.
It is overwhelming. There is no way you can do everything. Figure out where you can cut back –at least for a while (a year or two?). Easier meals, hiring someone to help, paper instead of dishes? Can you lower some expectations about housework? We never make our beds here. One of my boys has two boxes under his bunkbed where he puts his clothes. Nothing to hang up, no folding. It’s easy. I get cleaning ladies to come in once a month. So I never mop or clean showers.
> We hardly ever leave the house because it usually takes longer to load everyone up than to actually do whatever it is we needed to in the first place.
My husband does the grocery shopping on Saturdays because of this. It is extremely exhausting for me to take everyone out. So, we don’t do it very often.
I’m so glad you reached out! I do hear your heart, and I am praying for you. This life (of having a large family, and homeschooling them) is so hard, but so worth it. Don’t give up!
My favorite Scripture: Hebrews 12:1-3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted
Your sister in Christ,
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